White Noise

Jonathan Rivers’s (Michael Keaton, working hard) idyllic life is ended tragically with the unexpected death of his wife, Anna (Chandra West). Lost in grief, Jonathan finds hope when a mysterious man (Ian McNeice) comes into his life offering proof that Anna is attempting to communicate from the dead through white noise found on radios and televisions. Jonathan quickly becomes consumed with finding out what her short, static messages mean. Yet, in the process of deciphering the clues, Jonathan might be unlocking a larger evil waiting for release.

The trailer for “White Noise” made a very persuasive case for the presence of E.V.P., or “Electronic Voice Phenomena,” and the suits at Universal did a bang-up job selling the small amount of science behind this strange corner of the paranormal world. I wonder why the finished film doesn’t follow suitr A listless, troublingly familiar thriller, the last thing “White Noise” will accomplish with its E.V.P. tale is convincing anybody that this phenomena is real.

Taking a moody, PG-13 cue from the “Sixth Sense” and “The Ring,” “Noise” has the benefit of an original angle to play against for what is essentially another hoary, dull ghost story. To my knowledge, E.V.P. hasn’t been covered before by a major motion picture outside of a minor appearance in “Poltergeist,” so the red carpet is rolled out for the filmmakers to go absolutely nuts with the idea, crafting a wicked thriller and introducing the narrow-minded in the audience to a whole new variety of the supernatural. And “Noise” makes good on this opportunity with a tightly wound opening 30 minutes, which introduces feelings of mourning and beyond-the-grave hope nicely, promising dark things to come, but keeping the central E.V.P. idea in the sweaty hands of the logical world. So far, so good.

In an effort to keep up with the thriller/horror megahits of the past few years, the makers of “White Noise” aren’t content with their modest, original thriller, and they begin to quest outside of their competency. Sure, there is a respectable performance from Michael Keaton to hold on to, but even he looks lost when “Noise” stops being a story based in paranormal science, and trucks full steam into insipidly literalizing the ghosts Jonathan has been examining on his television screen. From that point on, like a fat man stuck in a barrel, “Noise” begins a swift, unstoppable decent down a sloppy, brainless screen writing hill that never seems to end, draining away all the mystery, enjoyment, and lukewarm suspense of the plot in favor of some unexplained CG spirits. Director Geoffrey Sax makes sure you hate his film even more by needlessly dropping in cheap “boo!” scares every 10 minutes, demonically ruining the one way audiences might truly be able to enjoy his film: by napping through it.

To top it all off, the insulting and arcane ending of “White Noise” appears to be implying much more menace and mystery for its characters than what has actually ended up on the screen. However, by that time, there’s no reason to care about anything unfolding in front of you. The filmmakers clearly didn’t, why should your

Rating: D